It’s 2007 and life now imitates art, not the other way â€˜round. Corporate money-machines give us “This Is Why I’m Hot” while I’m busy not listening, in a b-boy stance like, “this is why I don’t give a damn.” So what’s the place of authenticity (a staple of Hip Hop culture) in rap today? Does it even matter if MC’s only spit a good game in the booth and don’t live it in the streets, if it’s all basically image and marketing anyway?
This isn’t an issue of skills eitherâ€”it’s easy to dis the next Vanilla Ice for being both unreal (frontin’) and wack. What about a cat that’s got a sharp tongue and sick flow, but spits violent misogyny more akin to the latest shoot-â€˜em-up blockbuster than anything resembling real life? What if the same cat perhaps didn’t even grow up impoverished or discriminated against or Otherized at all? Does it matter what community he grew up in? What community he now represents (or claims to represent)?
With imagination and talent and passion, Gravity serves up a heaping helping of mixtape with “Debut of a Don,” filling the thin disc to the brim with 33 tracks of grab ya guns spark ya blunts Mafioso tough guy bullshit. Vintage freestyles, jacked beats, well-crafted original songs, unknown artist showcases, and notable guest appearances (Styles P, Trife, Tupac[!]). And he’s white, and he’s fronting like he’s head of la Cosa Nostra. And much like Lil Wayne, Gravity will remain one of my guilty pleasures, an MC I am consistently amazed at technically even if I rarely believe anything they say to be factual in the least.
I know stupid studio gun clapping is morally suspect, culturally damaging, stereotype reinforcement, simultaneously helping to cement dominant discourses about the danger and depravity of rappers and Hip Hop heads in general (playing into media and political agendas to contain young black youth) while at the same time pumping poison messages of gangsterish nihilism to today’s shorties. So it’d be easier if Gravity was a hack, or at least less nuanced.
As it stands, he does sound plenty ignorant on much of the disc (that’s not to say unentertaining), but he also gives glimpses of something deeper, many times addressing the same issues I was taking with his own content. The fifth track, “Wannabe Gangsters” blasted through the speakers just after I was almost convinced Gravity was just that. He also critiques those not in it for the love, and at turns reveals rare glimpses of vulnerability, whether financial or emotional. However, these remain nothing more than tantalizing teases of a potentially much more devastating and complex MC.
What we have here and now is loads of talent and not so much for content or innovation. Kind of like the game as a whole. Take it or leave it? Love it for what it has or hate it for what it’s not? Those are questions I’ve been asking myself more and more lately, and watching young cats like Gravity enter the game in this fashion, that’s not gonna stop anytime soon.